In ‘The Ethics of Filming”, Calvin Pryluck raises a difficult dilemma for those wishing to aim the lens of their camera out into the world: “What is the boundary between society’s right to know and the individual’s right to be free of humiliation, shame, and indignity?”
There is a true austerity to this question and one that is inevitably polarizing. I oft left documentary work unquestioned because those in the upper echelons of documentary film have the appearance that what they do is for a greater good, that the minor losses imposed by their film far underplay the great gains of their work.
That National Geographic is in no way bringing harm nor humiliation to those that capture but simply bringing what is unknown and foreign to be familiar and understood. That Roger & Me does not invite humiliation but that the individuals filmed invite humiliation upon themselves through their own suspicious ways.
There is integrity. There has to be. Especially when it is someone’s job. But today this isn’t always the case. First, everyone can be a film maker. The art of creating film isn’t reserved to those that can afford to shoot and produce. And secondly, society is more highly conscious and aware of media. We are deeply insecure about our portrayal, more so than an ever, and the idea of being awe, of “being on T.V. set” is no longer so innocent.
To cut the matter short, Pryluck asserts that there must be careful, sober consideration of what we film. Nothing comes for free. Everything has a cost, and most often those costs go unforeseen until matters are too late. And, as he claims, taking the path of generating controversy as a means to create popularity dampens the power of documentary work.
For the purpose of filming in Cambodia, ethics loomed large over my head. Particularly because my consideration of humiliation and ethics is far different then their own. And, then, I don’t even have the means to talk about it. And so, I vehemently chose to stick away from crossing the boundary, even if it cost me the footage audiences would want.
Next week I’ll talk about video editing in Final Cut Pro, but below is just some footage I’ve pulled out from watching the sunset at 6:00 a.m. along the Mekong. There isn’t an order or organization as of yet, I’m taking the aim of pulling out usable footage and then going from there.